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Why are we still fighting the wet-dry wars?


I blogged the other day on Sarah Palin’s apparent anti-alcohol views and the threat neoprohibitionism always seems to pose, like Freddie Kruger coming back just one more time to slice and dice his way through a teenager’s nightmares. Now, a friend from Massachusetts alerted me to this news out of Boston. It says how the town of Weston finally is going “wet,” after being “dry” for 170 years.

The choice to be dry is, of course, a relic of the Repeal of Prohibition, which empowered jurisdictions to decide on their own whether or not to permit the sale of alcohol. Now, Repeal occurred in 1933, when the States approved the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That was 75 years ago, but weirdly, bizarrely, we’re still fighting the wet-dry battles in America. The fact remains that about 10 percent of the U.S. remains dry, rendering 18 million people unable to buy alcohol in their communities, according to this website run by a sociology professor at the State University of New York, Potsdam.

Where are the dry counties?

Alabama: 24 counties
Arkansas: 42 counties
Florida: 5 counties
Kansas: 31 counties
Kentucky: 69 counties
Mississippi: 20 counties
Texas: 45 counties
Virginia: 35 counties

Without getting dragged into the Culture Wars, I just want to note that these are primarily Red States.

These anachronistic wet-dry laws are so twisted that they lead to through-the-looking glass consequences. The SUNY-Potsdam website describes this fiasco:

Jackson County in Alabama remains dry but three of its cities permit alcohol sales under the state’s local option law. Recently the county decided to tax alcohol sales within the three wet cities. However, the Alabama Attorney General’s office has issued a ruling that only wet counties can tax alcohol sales. By remaining dry the county must forego the economic benefits of the alcohol sales.

Too bad about that, because, as Jackson County’s Daily Sentinel editorialized just yesterday, Alabama’s schools are just about broke, and “a fix is needed and needed now.” It seems to me that more money coming in from alcohol sales taxes would be helpful in tough times like these.

Then there’s this farce down in Randolph County, Alabama, which is dry. A group of citizens wanted to set up a card table in front of the Courthouse to put a wet-dry vote on the ballot in November. But when a state attorney said that no special interest group could use the Courthouse that way, it automatically meant that Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society’s main activity, also was prohibited from using the Courthouse…as were the Boy Scouts.


Isn’t it time for a national policy to permit adults to buy alcoholic beverages where they want to, instead of where the nanny state tells them they have to?

Oh, by the way, Weston, the Massachusetts town that just went wet? They approved just one store, Omni Foods, to sell only wine. No beer, no hard liquor. Not yet.

  1. Steve, I Suspect the states counties you list are in the bible belt (?).

    Change most often follows a stuttering course, not a smooth line or curve.

  2. Arthur, I suspect you’re right about the Bible Belt. I didn’t want to get accused of slamming religion so I didn’t put it that way. We’ve living in very peculiar times.

  3. As I am sure must be frequently pointed out within the borders of your nation, but we don’t often see in print from outside of it: why is it that so many of those who proclaim to be against “big government” frequently are proponents of laws to restrict alcohol, prohibit the right to choose abortion, and infringements upon personal freedom a la Patriot Act. Why isn’t the contradiction obvious?

    You can imagine how strange it appears from far away.

  4. Tobias, the hypocrisy is breathtaking, isn’t it.

  5. As a kid, I lived in a Northern KY county where alcohol was sold (except Sunday before 1 p.m. and then only beer-this has recently changed to other variations, city-by-city). We vacationed at Kentucky Lake in a Western KY dry county. I only learned later why dad always towed a boat he neither knew how to launch nor used while there. It was filled with beer.

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